Have you ever tried to make a change in your diet or nutrition, but struggled to do so?
Perhaps you like the idea of eating more greens, but time after time, you find yourself reaching for boxed Mac & Cheese.
You like the idea of eating something different—outside your “safe” chicken and broccoli—but when it comes to meal time, you simply can’t make yourself eat the salmon or ground turkey burger instead. You fear trying something new.
Or you REALLY want to lose the weight or boost your metabolism, but time and time again, you find yourself binge eating Halo Top ice cream at night, or feeling fuller than you would like every night after dinner.
You’re not alone.
Only 1 in 10 Americans eats the recommended 3-5 servings of vegetables per day.
3 in 4 women struggle with some sort of disordered eating.
1 in 2 people are on a diet at any given point in time.
1 in 5 women have an eating disorder.
And less than 3% of Americans actually “walk the walk”—living a healthy lifestyle
The struggle is real.
So what do you do to “be healthier” and “eat better?”
Just try harder? Restrict more? Try a new diet?
None of these things.
Answer: Making a change in our nutrition choices or health goes FAR BEYOND diets, just eating more spinach, or following food rules.
Our food choices—the reason why we choose the foods we do—and the reason why we struggle to make changes in our food—comes down to food psychology:
The beliefs, rules and habits ingrained in our minds about food.
Here are 7 Roadblocks Keeping You From Healthy Food Choices (That Have Nothing to Do with Not Liking Green Smoothies)
7 Roadblocks Keeping You From Healthy Food Choices
1.Roadblock 1: Self Sabotage.
We are our own worst critics and chances are, if you’re hating on your body as it is, you can relate to this statement.Self-sabatoge is a natural byproduct of self-criticism. You don’t believe in yourself—or that change for yourself—is really possible.Self-sabatogers are also often terrified of their own success, secretly believing that failure is more familiar (after all, it feels better to control your own failure than to let it blindside you).Self-sabatoge can also become “second nature” for some—so much so that you no longer question it.Perhaps you didn’t make the cut on the cheerleading squad in middle school, or get elected student council secretary. Or maybe your dad told you that your dream to be an actress or writer was silly. From then on, you began to form the belief that success was not possible for you, and failure became more comfortable.How does this impact improving your health through nutrition?Simply put, you don’t believe that change for your body—or your health—is really within your grasp. You want to believe so, but that inner critic has another agenda—telling you that “you’ll always be this way.”
2. Roadblock 2: Mis-Understood Food Philosophy
Your food philosophy is your personal belief system about food. Your “why:” Why you choose to eat a particular food at a particular place at a particular time. The reasoning. For instance, my food philosophy is to nourish my body with real foods the majority of the time, while sticking to an 80/20 balanced mentality (80% of the time eating real foods, 20% of the time letting life happen).When we become disconnected with our personal why around foods, or our belief system, is when you will run into issues with the diets or restrictions you are trying so hard to follow to boost metabolism.For instance, although your diet may prescribe that you eat six small meals per day that you meal prep at home, or to avoid carbs, if your food philosophy is more about enjoying dinner out with friends on a Friday night, or not feeling bound to rules, then can you see the conflict here?Or your food philosophy may be to eat less processed foods, but your diet prescribes you eat Nutri-system meals, or suggest bars and shakes, hello…another conflict.Know you why around the foods you choose to eat and dietary philosophies you choose to follow.
3. Roadblock 3: Food Identity
“You are what you eat.”Food is a source of identity for us all—what we choose to eat is a self-expression, deeply influenced and interwoven into our culture, our gender, our age and more.For instance, if you’re from an Italian family, chances are, big family dinners, pasta, bread and wine were part of the cultural influence you grew up with. So when it comes to changing your diet, if pasta is not in your diet, no wonder change is hard. Asian cultures generally eat rice, veggies and proteins, so again, that low carb diet? No wonder it’s challenging.Other sources of food as identity include:
The type of diet or food philosophy you ascribe too can influence your own identity around food. We may pride ourselves in the food choices or diets we follow because food is also part of who we are (we are “vegan” or “paleo” or a “clean eater” and we act accordingly). We have a tribe. A type. A culture around the diet philosophy we choose.
Food choices are influenced at various seasons in our lives. As a kid, you ate Goldfish, PB&J’s without crust and Cheerios because that’s what kids do. As a teen, it was all about pizza sticks and Doritos for lunch—anything other than the healthy lunch your mom packed. As a 20-something, you became more conscious of what you “should eat” and began dieting to keep up with cultural norms.
Men eat “men food” like beer, pizza and chicken wings. They also “eat us out of house and home” or “have a hollow leg.”
Women on the other hands eat “girl food”—salads and quiche and diet soda. They “watch their figure” and “don’t eat too heavy.”
The activities you participate in affect your food choices. Are you a body builder? Protein shakes and egg whites. A climber? Trail mix and granola bars. Watching a movie? Popcorn is obviously involved.
Your food identity subconsciously determines your choices around food.
4. Roadblock 4: Personality Type
In her book, “Better than Before” author Gretchen Rubin describes 5 personality types that influence your choices—including your food choices. Are you a:
- Upholder: Someone who likes rules. Wants rules. And follows rules (diet rules)
- Abstainer: Do you have trouble stopping when you open the ice cream pint or struggle with diets—when things are “off limits?”
- Moderator: Need occasional pleasure to stay on track; Panic at thought of NEVER
- Questioner: Do you research, dig, and Google search everything before you’re “bought in”?
- Obliger: A people pleaser. You WANT to make a change, you say, ”Yeah. Yeah, I’ll do it. It makes perfect sense,” but you struggle to do so?
Find out your personality type here.
5. Roadblock 5: Rules & Fear
The rules and fears we have around food definitely influence our ability to change our food choices. As a byproduct of the 90’s, I feared fats for many years for instance—even when I discovered they were “good” or healthy for me. Other rules may include: “Carbs are bad,” or “butter causes heart disease,” or “clean eating is too restrictive.”
What are your food rules that may be preventing you from change or healthier mindsets and habits?
6. Roadblock 6: Emotional Eating
“Emotional eating” is a term that conjures up images of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a spoon after a bad breakup, or eating a bag of trailmix to calm test anxiety and study boredom.
But “emotional eating” goes far deeper than binge episodes or hiding in closets.
“Emotional eating” is the unhealthy or disconnected use of food, in response to an emotion, rather than a physical need or mindfulness with food—eating to cope, deal, sooth, calm, distract, numb, run, avoid, or fill a void of some sort.
Emotional eating is a “heart hunger” rather than a stomach hunger, or even social and celebratory hunger (partaking in a festivity, party or other social gathering by tasting or enjoying food—even if you aren’t particularly hungry).
In our efforts to band-aid or quiet the emotions we feel, we reach for the cookies, the pizza, the plantain chips, the cereal, or the M&M’s, and in an instance, an odd sense of mind-numbing euphoria takes the captain’s chair (at least for a little while).
Emotional eating is an attempt to boost our mood (the serotonin in our brains) with something tangible and pleasurable on our tongue.
It is the physical pleasure our bodies get through artificial ingredients, additives, sugar, fats and other ‘comfort foods’—a biological response our body has as well, triggering a psychological response to eat more of it.
Instead of choosing food based on nourishment or our body’s intuitive cues, we eat based on how we feel.
7. Roadblock 7: Disconnected from Our Body
Lastly, the lack of trust we have in our body keeps us from nourishing ourselves to the fullest— giving our body what it truly wants and needs.
Sometimes it will want chocolate, other times greens. But we’ve become more leaders with our diet rules and emotions than with our innate cues we had as a baby.
Mindful eating and intuitive eating have gone out the door. In addition, many of us have falsely trained our bodies and brains to crave foods it was not meant to thrive upon (like artificial sweeteners, diet sodas, processed and packaged foods)—and these foods are naturally addicting for our bodies and brains.
Hence why it is super easy to NOT truly listen to our body in the first place, or want (or crave) healthy foods.
Bonus: Check out these books for more insights on the science behind why we choose foods we do
Habit change (and food change) is hard. We are not hardwired to LIKE change. If you struggle to make “healthy choices” or can’t understand why you keep running back to old food habits, check in with yourself. What does food really mean to you? #BeNourished